Press Release: Disability Rights Maine Reacts to the Release of the Long Creek Youth Development Center Conditions Report

CONTACT: Atlee Reilly
207.844.4190 (C)

December 14, 2017

Disability Rights Maine Reacts to the Release of the Long Creek Youth Development Center Conditions Report

AUGUSTA – Today, Maine’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Group (JJAG) released the results of a conditions assessment of the Long Creek Youth Development Center (LCYDC). This assessment was completed by the Center for Children's Law and Policy, which is nationally recognized as having expertise in assessing juvenile detention facilities. Experts in the fields of education, mental health treatment for adolescents, and medical treatment of adolescents reviewed thousands of documents and spent three days at Long Creek interviewing administrators, staff and residents.

DRM believes the significant concerns identified in this report are worthy of attention by stakeholders across the state. And DRM endorses the call to examine a system that has resulted in the incarceration of many youth with disabilities in a facility unable to meet their needs. DRM is hopeful that this assessment will spur changes at LCYDC (and recognizes that some changes are already underway). But more importantly, DRM is hopeful that the State of Maine will see the release of this report as the opportunity it is – an opportunity to create change for our most vulnerable youth.

DRM conducts monthly outreach visits at LCYDC under its federal and state authority. Advocates access each unit, present information, and meet individually with all interested youth. Further, advocates listen to youths’ concerns that include access to meaningful treatment at the facility, access to community alternatives, and various issues related to conditions. From this perspective, DRM presents the following initial reactions to the LCYDC Assessment:

DRM agrees with the determination that “Long Creek houses many youth with profound and complex mental health problems, youth who the facility is neither designed for nor staffed to manage.” This conclusion is consistent with recent reports about the population at LCYDC and also with DRM’s experience. Maine is warehousing youth with significant mental health needs in a correctional setting that is unable to meet those needs. The short term cost is $250,000 annually per resident. But the long term costs of failing to provide appropriate and effective community based treatment to youth are no doubt significantly higher.

DRM agrees with the assertion that “the number of suicide attempts and self-harming gestures are clear evidence of the inappropriateness of Long Creek as a placement for many youth.” Youth who are inappropriately contained in a correctional setting and who are not given access to adequate supports and treatment, as detailed in the assessment, continue to engage in self harm and continue to attempt suicide.

The assessment indicated that case plans and treatment plans “appear to be rote and not at all individualized”, that “Long Creek does not have adequate behavior management plans” because they “focus overwhelmingly on punishing undesirable behavior, not encouraging youth to learn new behaviors” and that “the facility’s mental health services are inadequate, especially given the prevalence of mental illness in the youth population.” These conclusions are consistent with DRM’s experience at Long Creek and DRM endorses the recommendations made to address these concerns.

The assessment raised concerns about the current use of room confinement as well as the use of restraints and force. In addition, the assessment raised concerns about punishing youth and bringing additional charges against youth for behaviors that are manifestations of their disabilities and/or unmet needs. DRM shares these concerns and endorses the recommendations for addressing them. DRM views these, and many of the other concerns identified in the report, as symptoms of the primary problem – that many of the youth at LCYDC should not be there at all.

DRM agrees that “training grounded in adult correction does not prepare staff to work with vulnerable youth at Long Creek, many of whom suffer from histories of mental illness, trauma and abuse.” And DRM supports the calls for increased and improved staff training made throughout the assessment, specifically the need for training on trauma informed care.

The assessment also highlighted significant concerns regarding the education provided to students at LCYDC, especially to students who are detained. The problems identified are consistent with DRM’s experience and DRM endorses the extensive recommendations made in this area.

Finally, DRM strongly endorses the call for a review of the systems in Maine, including “an evaluation of the existing service array for youth, including identification of any gaps in services and an assessment of the quality and effectiveness of existing services. A review such as this is needed to understand the reasons why Long Creek is housing youth with so many unmet mental health needs, and, more importantly, what needs to be done to address the problems.” Maine must do better.

Through its operation of multiple federal and state funded programs, DRM advocates for individuals with disabilities whose rights have been violated, who are at risk of abuse or neglect, or who have faced discrimination on the basis of their disability. DRM seeks redress where rights concerns arise related housing, education, physical access, rehabilitation, health care, community supports, and employment. Additionally, DRM works toward public policy reform through training, outreach and systemic advocacy.